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Mountain glaciers shrinking across Western U.S. — new use of satellite elevation mapping

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October 20, 2017 University of Washington read full ScienceDaily article here

A technique using satellites to create twice-yearly elevation maps of US mountain glaciers provides new insight into thinning of glaciers in the lower 48 states.

Until recently, glaciers in the United States have been measured in two ways: placing stakes in the snow, as federal scientists have done each year since 1957 at South Cascade Glacier in Washington state; or tracking glacier area using photographs from airplanes and satellites.

We now have a third, much more powerful tool…David Shean devised new ways to use high-resolution satellite images to track elevation changes for massive ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.


This map shows the elevation change of Mount Rainier glaciers between 1970 and 2016. The earlier observations are from USGS maps, while the recent data use the satellite stereo imaging technique. Glacier surface elevations have dropped more than 40 meters (130 feet) in some places.
Credit: David Shean/University of Washington

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